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I'm using examples from the TV series Hazel, but this could come from any number of sources. On one show, the title character makes three "strikes" in a row at bowling. On another, she calls, and makes a complex series of pool shots, one after another. On a third show, it might be a "hole in one" at golf.

These are doable, but highly difficult athletic feats that may require world class performers. A show might feature actors/actresses that could perform them. But there are probably more usual ways to generate these results on screen. What might they be?

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There are at least three ways of doing this, and different shows will take different approaches. I'll use the "three strikes in a row" scene as an example.

- Use stunt doubles

It doesn't have to be the actor themselves performing the feats. Bring in an accomplished athlete of roughly the same height and build, dress them up to resemble the character, and then shoot them from angles that make it impossible to tell the difference. A pro-level bowler could easily achieve three strikes in a row.

- Train the actor

Sometimes, the actor will insist on performing the stunt themselves. In this case, you'd have a pro-level bowler come in and train the actor until they're able to reliably score a strike, or the actor might just go off and study bowling of their own volition.

- Just fake it

Your bowling scene might consist of three separate shots:

  • A shot of the character releasing the ball down the alley
  • A shot of the pins getting hit and falling over
  • A shot of the character celebrating

These shots may not all have been filmed in one go. You could, for example, film the actor releasing the ball and celebrating a strike they didn't actually get, then later splice in footage of a strike they did get in a different take, or that someone else got on their behalf (overlapping with "Use stunt doubles").

An interesting real-life example that combines all three approaches is this scene from Hannibal, in which Mads Mikkelsen, playing the titular Hannibal Lecter, pulls off a fancy trick using an egg. The producers planned to fake it by having Mikkelsen attempt the trick, then cutting to close-up footage of a trained chef actually succeeding. This proved to be unnecessary because Mikkelsen, a trained juggler, pulled it off on the first try.

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    I think this is a subset of "Train the actor". In Aliens Resurrection one of the characters throws a basketball back over her shoulder from the half court line and puts it in the basket. Apparently Sigourney Weaver practiced this for weeks and made the shot herself. Unfortunately the ball went out of frame so it's likely the audience will assume it is actually "Just fake it" like the director initially planned to do it.
    – Eric Nolan
    Feb 15 at 17:14
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    @EricNolan - there's a bit more to that story. you do see her make the shot… what you don't see [& why there's a rapid cut away rather than glorying in a real shot] is Ron Perlman yelling "Shit", everybody breaking character & the whole crew applauding :)) youtube.com/watch?v=FF44YvDVP8Y
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 15 at 22:27
  • There are also ways of faking it that use e.g. split-screen effects to combine the actor's face with the hands of a skilled double. Or the low-tech approach of having the double standing behind the actor and ‘being’ his arms (such as in the ‘Psirens’ episode of Red Dwarf).
    – gidds
    Feb 19 at 18:57

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